RE S EARCH GPS tests useful even without results Potato grower Ate Jo Oosterhof from Westhoek is the initiator of the young Friesian project group, De Wadden. This group intends to ‘grow at the cutting edge’ by applying GPS techniques. Oosterhof says that he has learned a lot even after one year of testing, although the results are not yet fully clear at all. MOISTURE MONITORING USING ISRAELI TECHNIQUES ‘When you see the digitalised maps, you already start to think about the differences. We discuss it among ourselves and that is the advantage when you take on something together,’ Ate Jo Oosterhof has already learned this since the start of the project. V arious project groups are active in the Netherlands nowadays, trying to investigate the possibilities of advanced soil and crop mapping based on satellite positioning. One of the youngest groups is De Wadden foundation; a partnership between eight crop farmers, two agricultural contractors, a consultancy and SPNA knowledge institute (Stichting Proefboerderijen Noordelijke Akkerbouw / Northern Arable Farming Pilot Farms Foundation). One of the foundation’s initiators is crop farmer and potato grower (40 hectares) Ate Jo Oosterhof from Westhoek. He says that he has learned a lot even after one year of testing, despite the fact that the results are still very scant. ‘Our project group has set two objectives. The first is to try to find solutions to avoid deterioration of soil structure, aiming to improve the soil using soil maps and GPS. The second objective is to improve the total farm management of each participant by avoiding raw material waste. We aim to map a total of 800 hectares of land, where several experimental field sites will be available each year. This will involve grain yield measurements, precision planting of potatoes, measuring of the moisture content in the soil during the growing season, determining the right time to drive on the De Wadden foundation would like to know how the moisture condition of the plots fluctuates during a growing season. The participants are looking for answers to questions such as where is a lot or only little moisture available, and what is the cause. The course of moisture quantity in the soil can be measured through moisture tension or tension meters. The equipment that is available in the Netherlands to measure moisture tension is rather expensive. This is why the foundation has asked their technical adviser Jos Broeders to look for a reasonably priced alternative. Broeders works for Hortagro, a global company operating in the agricultural and (glasshouse) horticultural sector. It has customers in Israel, for example. The entire agricultural sector there revolves around the availability of water. There, every kind of equipment in this field is available. The Israeli company is a young firm which supplies very simple and reasonably priced tension meters, according to Broeders. These moisture tension meters are equipped with a GPS antenna that can send wireless data via GPRS or SMS messages to a computer. They also have a large range. It is expected that two metres will be sufficient to map out the moisture condition of a plot. ‘The humidity of the soil is an important indicator for the crop production potential. By measuring moisture online, we also get some measurement of temperature. This provides information about the problems we may expect and it enables us to react to them adequately.’ De Wadden will be using moisture meters that are equipped with GPS reception. Potatoworld 2006 15 Pagina 14

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